Pius XI as Librarian

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<ul><li><p>Pius XI as LibrarianAuthor(s): Eugne Cardinal TisserantSource: The Library Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Oct., 1939), pp. 389-403Published by: The University of Chicago PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4302636 .Accessed: 18/06/2014 04:26</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.</p><p> .</p><p>The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to TheLibrary Quarterly.</p><p>http://www.jstor.org </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 04:26:50 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=ucpresshttp://www.jstor.org/stable/4302636?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>THE </p><p>LI BRARY QUARTERLY </p><p>Volume IX OCTOBER 1939 Number 4 </p><p>PIUS XI AS LIBRARIAN </p><p>EUGENE CARDINAL TISSERANT </p><p>ON ACHILLE RATTI, the future Pope Pius XI, entered the profession of librarianship on November 8, i888, when he was elected to succeed the late Don </p><p>Fortunato Villa as doctor of the Ambrosiana Library. As pro- fessor of eloquence in the Milan Theological Seminary for the preceding six years, the new librarian had received no profes- sional library training. He had, however, distinguished himself as a brilliant and profound student in the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Milan and in the Gregorian University in Rome: he had his degrees in philosophy, theology, and canon law. </p><p>Of course, the doctors of the Ambrosiana were not exactly of the same type as modern librarians; and their responsibilities did not correspond very closely with the duties which press most heavily in the majority of the present-day libraries. The famous library-founded in 1609 by Cardinal Federigo Borromeo in the interest of humanistic culture-was visited only by scholars, and the librarians had very little to do in the way of giving service to the public. Their task was to study manuscripts and printed books, and they were expected to publish old texts or important dissertations on philological and historical matters. </p><p>The head of the library, Antonio Ceriani, famous for his works on Syriac and Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament, </p><p>389 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 04:26:50 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>390 THE LIBRARY QUARTERLY </p><p>had taught Hebrew to Achille Ratti at the Milan Theological Seminary, and we may conclude that Ceriani had from that time a special esteem for the capacity of his former student. But, un- til i888, Don Achille Ratti had published very little. In I883 he had collaborated in a chapter of Mercalli's book, Vukani e fenomeni vulcanici, on the historical earthquakes in Italy. In i885 he had given fourteen pages, on the origin of man, to a book on theology by his colleague in the Milan Seminary, Don Federico Sala. </p><p>These two writings by the young Ratti reveal that he enjoyed the study of natural sciences. Already he had begun to be an enthusiastic mountaineer, and we know that he did not neglect, in his ascents, to record and study geological data. Son of a businessman, reared near the silk-weaving plant of his father, Achille Ratti had a very open mind, and he was to develop along lines quite dissimilar to those of his beloved master, Ceriani. He did not remain purely a man of study; he became a real librarian, a type of transition between the old and the new, as his successor at the Ambrosiana, Mgr Giovanni Galbiati, has acutely pointed out: "Achille Ratti non fu un bibliotecario all'antica maniera, ma fu il bibliotecario dei nuovi tempi o, se anche dovessimo modificare e attenuare la frase, Egli significo il passaggio tra l'antico e il nuovo tipo di bibliotecario."' </p><p>As a student in the Theological Seminary, Don Achille Ratti had been in charge of the reading-room (I877) and was accus- tomed to help his fellow-students who, more than likely, were provided with very poor notions of bibliography. He judged that his chief task as assistant librarian of the Ambrosiana was to assist the visitors in their researches of manuscripts or of rare books. He endeavored to know as completely as possible the resources of the library, and, since he had an excellent memory, he succeeded so well in his efforts that many years later, when he was pope, he recorded titles with their locations in the Ambrosiana. In order to be more efficient in guiding scholars </p><p>X Papa Pio XI euocatoda Giouanni Galbiati (Milan: Ancora, 1939), p. i6; cf. pp. 17I f. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 04:26:50 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>PI US XI aS LIBRARIAN 391 </p><p>and readers, he preferred not to specialize too much;2 and it is a matter of common knowledge that many scholars who met him in Milan or Rome wondered at the broadness of his interest in so many disciplines. </p><p>For many years Achille Ratti was only one of the assistant librarians, and in the same manner as his colleagues he gave most of his time to the preparation of publications. Ceriani, however, inclined more and more to leave to him the contacts with the readers and the care of the material organization. As early as i895, Don Achille Ratti had arranged that the floor above the rooms of the library should no longer be used as apartments, thus diminishing the risk of fire, which was giving great anxiety in such an old building. After the disastrous fire of I904 in the Turin National Library had destroyed thousands of books and manuscripts, Don Achille Ratti saw to it that the Ambrosiana was made one of the most efficiently fireproofed libraries in Europe. </p><p>These changes which were effected for the improvement of the building permitted the complete rearranging of two sections of the Ambrosiana, i.e., the Pinacoteca (or gallery of paintings) and the Museo Settala (a curious example of an encyclopedical private collection of the seventeenth century which, after a long period of neglect, was now called to a new life). The important new arrangements were explained in an anonymous booklet which was, however, by Ratti-Guida sommaria per il visitatore della Biblioteca Ambrosiana e delle collezioni annesse (Milan, January 25, 1907. Pp. I6o; with go illustrations and 2 plates in colors) .4 </p><p>2 Cf. discourse of Father H. Quentin at the Ambrosiana on March 20, I927, in ibid., p. 85: "II s'etait tellement donn6 A ses fonctions qu'il n'avait voulu se specialiser dans aucune matiere, pour pouvoir etendre toujours la competence du biblioth&amp;caire...." </p><p>3 The Italian government, which was then without relations with the Roman Catho- lic Church, knighted A. Ratti on Sept. 30, I906, "because he had earned great dis- tinction in historical studies and had completely rearranged the Ambrosiana Library and Gallery." In I898 a state administration had manifested its esteem of Ratti's ability when it intrusted to him the rearrangement of the library in the Pavia Carthusian Monastery. </p><p>4 A brief notice on the Ambrosiana Library had already been written anonymously by A. Ratti in 1893 for the official statistics of Italian libraries. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 04:26:50 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>392 THE LIBRA1RY QUARTERLY </p><p>In the successive months which saw his election as librar- ian on March 8, 1907, after the death of Antonio Ceriani, Mgr Ratti introduced in some stacks a metal shelving and improved the reading-room, dividing it into two parts-one for readers of manuscripts and one for readers of printed books. At the same time the Ambrosiana was furnished with a repair shop for manu- scripts,s similar to that which Father Ehrle had established in the Vatican Library. Mgr Ratti had been interested in the repair of manuscripts since 1897, when Father Ehrle, on the occasion of the Saint Gall conference, asked him to have pre- pared in the family mill at Desio some thin silk tissue for the reinforcement of paper manuscripts corroded by ink. </p><p>Mgr Ratti procured for the Ambrosiana many accessions. Some were gifts-such as the libraries of Nardi and Tosi (1903), manuscripts of Trotti (I907) and Caprotti (I909); and he pur- chased important series of printed books and even incunabula and manuscripts, as, for example, a fine group of Christian oriental manuscripts at Munich (1g9o). The charter of founda- tion of the Ambrosiana forbade the doctors to prepare and pub- lish catalogs of the collections, but Mgr Ratti secured other col- laborators for that important work and directed the complete cataloging of the printed books, asking money for that special purpose on the occasion of the tercentenary of the Ambrosiana in I909. </p><p>Mgr Ratti, who had visited many Italian and foreign li- braries for the preparation of the J!cta Ecclesiae Mediolanensis and had served so many scholars in the Ambrosiana, watched carefully the professional problems. It is no wonder that he par- ticipated in 1g9o in the International Conference of Archivists and Librarians at Brussels. </p><p>The Ambrosiana Library depends from the Holy See and, in i8g8, one of her doctors-Don Giovanni Mercati-following in the steps of Angelo Mai, became a scriptor of the Vatican Li- brary. When Father Ehrle, after directing the Vatican Library </p><p>s The occasion for this was perhaps the urgent need of perfecting materials and de- veloping skill in the repairing of old manuscripts and parchments in the archives of the Milan Cathedral, which had been damaged in I9o6 by the fire of the Milan Exhibition. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 04:26:50 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>PI US XI aS LIBRARIAN 393 </p><p>for several years, was considering a successor, he, with his pre- ferred collaborator, examined meticulously the titles of various scholars. They agreed on the person of Mgr Ratti; and when their choice was presented to Pius X it was immediately declared acceptable. On November 8, 19II, the prefect of the Ambro- siana was designated as vice-prefect of the Vatican Library cum iure successionis. Since it seemed inadvisable to remove him at once from the Ambrosiana, where he had been in charge a little more than four years, and since Father Ehrle was still able to work, it was arranged that for a period Mgr Ratti would divide his time between Milan and Rome, a fortnight or so in each place. This regime began in February, I912, and continued until December, I913, when Mgr Ratti took possession of the apartments of the librarian in the Vatican; he remained, how- ever, the chief of the Ambrosiana until September 26, 1914. </p><p>Mgr Ratti began his actual direction of the Vatican Library at the reopening of October, I9I3, but not until September 1, I914, did he receive the title of prefect. No fundamental reform seemed necessary. The Vatican Library had been remarkably well managed by Father- Ehrle, although with inadequate means. An excellent collection of reference works-about 30,000 volumes-had been formed and made directly accessible to the readers in the room, famous among scholars, Sala di consul- tazione. At the end of 19I2 the reading-room for the study of manuscripts had been transferred to the same floor as the Sala, effecting very favorable conditions for study. </p><p>Father Ehrle, however, freely avowed that much remained to be done; he had given the best of his attention to the manu- scripts and had organized a fine staff of catalogers for that preferred part of the treasures under his care. Assuredly, he did not undervalue the printed books, since he had secured for the Vatican Library so splendid a collection as the Barberini, and he had tried to rebuild the oldest collections-Prima raccolta and Palatina-on the basis of the inventories of 1686-go. But for the cataloging of the printed books the library lacked a trained staff and had at its disposition no money for extra work. The man in charge of the accessions and the reference room for many </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 04:26:50 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>394 THE LIBRAfRY QUARTERLY </p><p>years, although without special training, had good sense and a good hand; he was careful in observing the meager cataloging rules Father Ehrle had compiled, mostly from information re- ceived from Leopold Delisle. The cards for the books of the reference room were almost adequate. The care of the other books was officially intrusted to three assistants who were old. Only one of them had sufficient literary and linguistic com- petence. One was a retired artillery captain of the Pontifical Army who, fortunately, instead of writing cards, read the news- papers most of the time. XVith this personnel it was impossible to attempt the cataloging of at least 300,000 volumes. Of course, many of these works had once been cataloged, since every collection had its own catalog, but these catalogs were usually in book form, and the call numbers were topographical; after one or more changes of location it was impossible to trace a quantity of books, even when one knew the library possessed the titles. </p><p>Mgr Ratti understood thoroughly the situation and resolved to begin at once the work on a main catalog of all the Vatican printed books. Those of the attendants who had a tolerable cal- ligraphy and were careful in their transcriptions were invited to give extra work for copying on cards the entries in the ancient catalogs. The effort was not conceived as a definitive one be- cause the original entries were too lacking in uniformity, but to have all the titles in one card catalog would have been a de- cidedly great advancement. Unfortunately, the period of the war was not a propitious time for the undertaking; the men were anxious to procure food for their families and some of them had found more remunerative work outside the library. However, the prefect did not lose courage and, after obtaining permission from the Pope, on December I5, 19I7, to turn over the library courtyard to the staff members of the lower grades for the cul- tivation of vegetables for their families, he asked, on February IO, I9I8, that the copyists, in order to accelerate the work, be allowed to carry home every evening some of the ancient catalogs. </p><p>Meanwhile, the r...</p></li></ul>


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